Wittgenstein on lying
Wittgenstein & le mensonge

16 & 17 May 2024 – Nancy, France, Université de Lorraine
Campus Lettres et Sciences Humaines
23 Bd Albert 1er, 54000 Nancy, France
Building G, room G04 (ground floor)

Organisation: A. C. Zielinska, R. Pouivet & L. Sanzey
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Presentations will be made in English and in French (please trust the language of the titles). 

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Poster & programme 

Program of the conference

Thursday May 16, 2024

9:30 – Anna C. Zielinska (Université de Lorraine, Nancy, France), Introduction 
10:00-11:00 – Roger Pouivet (Université de Lorraine, Nancy, France), « Le vice du mensonge : Wittgenstein et Thomas d’Aquin » (a written English version will be provided)

11:15-12:00 – Fabrice Louis, « Wittgenstein et le mensonge : quelle perspective anthropologique ? » 

12:00-12:45 – Yoen Qian-Laurent (Sorbonne Université), « Videte an mentiar : axiologie ou généalogie du mensonge selon Wittgenstein ? »

14:00-15:00 – Hans Johann Glock (Universität Zürich, Suisse), «What is wrong with lying? A Wittgensteinian analysis of the concept and an objection to the practice which is Wittgensteinian but not Wittgenstein’s own»

15:00-15:45 – Ulrich Arnswald (University of Innsbruck / University of Kaiserslautern-Landau (RPTU)), «Lies as Play-acting: The Peculiarity of “White Lies” in Wittgenstein’s Work»

16:00-16:45 – Antonia Soulez (Université Paris VIII), «Wittgenstein “par-delà le bien et le mal”»

16:45-17:30 – Pierre Fasula (Université Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne), «Mentir à la 1ère personne. Le mensonge sans l’aliénation»

Friday May 17, 2024 

10:00-11:00 – Edward Kanterian (University of Kent, UK), «Wittgenstein on Myths and Illusions in Philosophy”

11:15-12:00 – Jonathan Gombin (Laboratoire SPH – Université de Bordeaux), «Ryle and Wittgenstein on Learning How to Lie»

12:00-12:45 – Léo Grenier (EHESS), « Individuation et discernement (avec Descombes)»

14:00-15:00 – Maximilian de Gaynesford (University of Reading, UK), «Wittgenstein and the Poets»

15:00-15:45 – Danka Radjenović (University of Kaiserslautern-Landau (RPTU)), «Wittgenstein on the role of pretence in our lives»

16:00-17:00 –  Elise Marrou (Sorbonne Université, France), « L’expression du mensonge : Wittgenstein face au paradoxe du Crétois et de G. E. Moore »


17:30-20:00 – Movie screening & discussion : Wittgenstein by Derek Jarman (1993) – closing of the conference and celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (17 May) – cf. facebook event


The question of the nature of lying is very present in Wittgenstein’s later texts. Lying is often understood as “speaking against one’s thought with the intention of deceiving”, which presupposes that a person who lies is entirely transparent to themselves and has a unique access to their distinctive mental states. Yet Wittgenstein is well known to precisely challenge this “myth of interiority” (the expression comes from Jacques Bouveresse), i.e. the thesis, sometimes called “mentalist”, that thinking presupposes awareness of meanings that are in the mind, and to which each consciousness then alone has access. Indeed, much of Wittgenstein’s “philosophy of psychology” consisted in analyzing the difficulties encountered by this presupposition of psychological interiority. Then how can we define lying if it cannot consist in speaking against one’s conscious thinking, disguising it in and through what we say?

Wittgenstein says in Philosophical Investigations :

Are we perhaps over-hasty in our assumption that the smile of an unweaned infant is not a pretence?-And on what experience is our assumption based?
(Lying is a language-game that needs to be learned like any other one.) (PI 249)

Why is it difficult to imagine a lying baby? Because lying has to do with the intention to deceive by saying what we believe to be false, but does not have to correspond to a particular impression, but rather to what we know how to do with language. Many of Wittgenstein’s remarks in the Cambridge Courses, 1946-1947 criticize the notion of an “impression of lying”. In the notes taken by A.C. Jackson, Wittgenstein insists that lying does not consist in this impression, but presupposes “a motive, a situation” ([p. 314]) And Wittgenstein is even quoted as saying that, when it comes to lying, this is “the essential thing”! Wittgenstein thus seems to propose that the tools for explaining lying are not internal psychological states or processes, but a particular language game.

The aim of the symposium is twofold. In the first place, we would like to gain a better understanding of what Wittgenstein says about lying (and hence of his philosophy of meaning and psychology). Secondly, we would like to better understand the nature of lying itself, its moral, anthropological and interactional stakes, with Wittgenstein, but also with inputs from other traditions and methods (ethnomethodology in particular).